An elderly man had hearing problems for a number of years. His family tried over and over to convince him to get hearing aids, so finally he relented. He went to the doctor and was fitted for a set of hearing aids that allowed him to hear perfectly once again. A month later he went back to the doctor. The doctor said with a smile, “Your hearing is great. Your family must be really glad you can hear again.” The old man replied, “Oh, I haven’t told my family yet. I just sit around and listen to their conversations. I’ve changed my will three times!”
I wonder if we would change how we talk about others if we knew they could hear our conversation. Whenever we speak of others in a way that is hurtful or unsubstantiated, we’re engaging in what the Bible calls gossip.
Now, I have to admit, there’s something exciting about gossip. We scan the tabloids with curiosity. We strain our ears to hear that discussion across the room. We gloat as we share a bit of new dirt we just learned. We lean into a conversation when some juicy detail is about to be revealed. As Proverbs 26:22 puts it, “The words of a whisperer are like dainty morsels, and they go down into the innermost parts of the body.”
But gossip isn’t harmless. It’s deadly. Proverbs 20:19 warns us, “He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets, therefore do not associate with a gossip.” Second Timothy 3:3 even says that a sign the end times are approaching is that many will be “unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good.”
Our words reveal a lot about what’s going on inside our hearts. Jesus taught in Matthew 12:34, “the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.” Does your speech imitate Christ, who has “done no violence, nor was there any deceit in His mouth” (Isaiah 53:9)? First God needs to wash our hearts. Then He needs to wash our mouths so we speak blessing instead of cursing.
Let’s resolve today, with God’s help, to say nothing about another person that we would be ashamed to say to their face. When we steer clear of gossip, we don’t have to worry about someone overhearing our conversation. We’ll just be glad they’re interested in what we have to say.
This article was written for the “Ministers Message” of our local newspaper, the Hi Desert Star, and appeared in last Wednesday’s edition.